Functional localities: an integrated spatial approach towards health care locality definition.

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This paper demonstrates a spatialapproach towards the definition of localities forhealth care planning. Recent internationaldecentralisation of health care provision, andmore specifically devolution within the UnitedKingdom, emphasises the need to develop a geographicalfocus in the delimitation of local structuresfor health care planning. Geographers, butmost especially those applying GeographicalInformation Science (GIS) techniques, have madeenormous contributions in this field and moregenerally in research related to health services.This paper considers some of these previousapproaches and moves on in the light of newtechnologies, and more importantly the availabilityof appropriate data, to create localities thatreflect dynamic spaces of social interaction,administration and policy. The paper’s focus isplaced on the importance of flow data thatreflects the spatial interaction between servicesand the population. This data, divided into threesub-groups of administration, education andhealth, allows us to identify the population’sallegiance to place and ultimately create spatiallybounded functional localities that reflect this.Whilst the approach is largely technology driven,it also incorporates the expertise of local healthcare professionals thus recognising the importanceof collaboration and multi-sectoral engagement.Although this combined approach impacted uponthe way in which the final localities were defined,crucially it enabled us to incorporate features ofboth rigorous spatial analysis and a wealth of localknowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-40
Issue number1
Early online date6 Nov 2006
Publication statusPublished online - 6 Nov 2006


  • Locality
  • Health care planning
  • GIS
  • Health geography
  • Spatial interaction


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